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Friday, 31 March 2006
Old friends, new friends and good knitting
Topic: Knitting Retreats



You never know what will happen at a Knitting Retreat.

Oh, we have the requisite yarn tricks and "aha!" moments, and it's all good. But, the icing is the unplanned stuff that tends to crop up whenever knitters get together.

Enter Dolly and Jousting Peeps.

Apparently Dolly (far right) makes the rounds with the Kids From Camp (Martie, Sue, Jud and Janet were the bunch that made it to the retreat) and she brought with her Peeps for Jousting. So, when we had covered the class topic on Saturday morning (can we all sing "HEMS!") and there was a fragment of a lull in the conversation, the topic turned to the annual Peep games first espoused by the KNITLIST in the 1990's. Of course, the Kids from Camp had come prepared for a match, so the microwave, toothpicks, paper plates and two yellow marshmallow Peeps came out to entertain the group.

I must say...I have not seen a retreat dissolve in helpless laughter quite like this one.

I was gifted with the lovely Stuffed Peep, shown at center above with a (double pointed needle)spear in her wing, lolling on the deck railing with Dolly and a handy skein of Bearfoot, as a memento of our time together.

Posted by countrywool at 9:14 PM EST
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Wednesday, 1 March 2006
Knitting For Peace
Topic: charity knitting
I got an e-mail from Randy in Sweden that struck a chord. I don't normally jump on bandwagons, as mine is rolling too fast already, but I like what is going on here.

On March 21, Randy spends all day knitting...for peace. Contemplating the world and all its problems, but also how connected we all are, there is hope that through our common ground we'll find a way past the anger and dividedness.

I've posted Randy's letter here. I invite everyone who might be interested to come and knit with me in town on that day. We'll hang out at The Spotty Dog in Hudson. If you need yarn or needles or ideas on what to knit, give a holler and I'll help you get organized.

"KNIT FOR PEACE
March 21, 2006
Knitting is a peaceful activity. Sheep are archetypically placid. When they cross a road that you are driving down, there is nothing to do but wait. It never crosses your mind to honk the horn or try to drive around—where I live the sheep graze in fields so rocky that you’d pierce your muffler if you tried—you just turn off your engine and admire the ungainly woolly lumps brushing past your front bumper. Knitting starts with the sheep.
I like natural yarns that are full of lanolin. That way I can feel the life of this animal that needn’t give its life to yield up this wonderful product that I use to knit. I fondle the yarn and start to rack my brains and my library for inspiration. My knitted things have no borders. I use a Swedish wool to knit mittens using a twisted Eastern stitch. The mittens turn out not to be warm enough, so I knit mitten liners out of Chilean alpaca. The hat on my head is of Japanese yarn, knitted from a Norwegian pattern. I knit my hat in the round from the top down, and once I passed the awkward double point stage and worked onto a circular needle, I slipped into the meditative state that arises when I knit stocking stitch in the round. My mind wanders, first to my work day then, eventually, to the private part of my day, my family, my friends, the wild thyme that the sheep graze on in the rocky fields up the road. I become part of a world bigger than that enclosed by the ends of the sofa where I sit knitting. My mind wanders through the world that has led to the knitting in my hands and because I am knitting, engaged in this quiet, peaceful activity that starts with the placid sheep, my mind wanders through a peaceful world.
Knitters radiate peace. When I see a stranger moving a pre-natal sock around and around a ring of double points, he is engaged in creating warmth for someone he cares about, an expression of peace. When I see a friend with a lap full of grey alpaca, lovingly being worked in moss stitch for her new baby, her quiet handiwork sings peace.
I would like to channel this peacefulness. On March 21, every stitch that I knit will be dedicated to peace. I would like to invite everyone who knits to join me on that day. Will it stop people from hurting and threatening and frightening each other, the antithesis of peace? Who knows. When I knit on March 21, I will be saying with each stitch that peace is possible, that human intelligence and compassion can triumph over fear and greed, that terror and war can give way to discussion and peace.
Knit for peace.
* * *
Randy Sklaver
Visby, Sweden"

Posted by countrywool at 7:21 AM EST
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Monday, 20 February 2006
Knitting This Week
Topic: nordic knitting



This one's for Elizabeth, my fellow Children In Common knitfriend. She's the organizer of the CIC LIST that coordinates donated knit/crocheted/woven clothing for the thousands of kids in orphanages in the former Soviet Union. She's a sock knitting fiend, also.

The reindeer chart got tweaked a little in anticipation of multiple sock sizes ahead, and I am not happy with the color placement on the border charts, but a New Idea came to me last night and I'll work on it later this evening. (Pattern is on its way, E).

And, I finished another colorway for the Nordic Knitting Retreats. I like dark sweaters, and using black as a licing color gets me there while allowing for a real color as the base.



Dark sweaters are very practical to wear everyday, and HEILO is the best wearing 100% wool yarn I've ever knitted with. I plan to make my everyday sweaters and socks out of it from now on.

Posted by countrywool at 9:03 AM EST
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Friday, 17 February 2006
Dancing Reindeer
Topic: nordic knitting



Done, ends woven in, washed, blocked, worn twice and now photographed for the pattern.

I opted to make this tunic length, for I live in leggings and BIG handknit socks all winter.

I just need some reindeer socks to go with it.

Posted by countrywool at 5:18 PM EST
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Writing Patterns



(Pat...the duck above is for you, and will be included in the optional chart patterns for the Nordic Knitting Retreats at Cape Ann and The Catskills).

I was chatting in the shop yesterday about writing patterns. I LOVE to write patterns! I look forward to that part of any knitting project. It does take a fair amount of time, and I am constantly challenged by making stupid mistakes, but using all my computer skills and workhorse software is enormously helpful. And satisfying.

I rely on my digital camera for shots of difficult parts in the pattern (one picture is truly worth a thousand words) as well as a final all-over photo; Microsoft EXCEL to work out all the math as I carve out the sizes I want to include (and many thanks to Dee who helped me understand how to use it!), Microsoft WORD to write and format the pattern; EXCEL to create the charts (it works easily and beautifully!) and my humble calculator when there is so much going on in EXCEL that I can't see the forest for the trees.

Literally.

For instance, the pattern for the LUSKOFTE IN THE WOODS (or Lice in The Woods Sweater...which title do you prefer?) has a lovely ring of pine trees at the base of the yoke. The chart stitch repeat is 15. There are 12 adult sizes from 38 through 60". That's 12 sets of numbers that have to be decreased around equally and logically so that the pine trees fit where they should AND so they look good arranged on the sweater AND so the decreases do not cause bunching, etc. This is a job for EXCEL to keep track of, but for me and my little calculator to consider from size to size, pondering as we go.

Math is an amazing companion in tracking a sweater's changes, and I am grateful for its power and predictability. I am even more grateful for the work of Elizabeth Zimmermann and Meg Swansen, who opened designing doors for me in the 70's. With one piece of paper, a gauge swatch, sweater measurements and a percentage concept of clothing a body, anyone can knit a sweater that fits. This is the legacy we knitters come from, for back in the fishing villages where knitting thrived in centuries past, there were no patterns, yet, everyone wore sweaters.

Posted by countrywool at 7:53 AM EST
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Thursday, 9 February 2006
...getting closer
Topic: nordic knitting



It is always a shame a circularly knit stranded sweater cannot look as good as it will be while it is still on the needles. But, I am nearing the end and wanted to share. I have taken my time knitting this (although I do have a deadline which looms over me) in order to protect my hands/wrists/arms/back. So I do only a few inches a day. I am on round 42 of the 63 round yoke, and with all the decreasing, I may finish it tonight.

I snuck in some short rows between chart changes, and all told there will be almost a 2" higher back when I hit the top. This pleases me enormously, as the fit will be that much better.

I am thinking a stand up collar would be a snappy finish, to match the hem style at the cuffs/bottom edge.

Stay tuned.

While I am working on this sweater, the next one is dancing in my head.

So many good sweater ideas, so little time....

Posted by countrywool at 6:52 AM EST
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Wednesday, 8 February 2006
Knitting Olympics



Knitting blogland is alive with news and plans for the Knitting Olympics. Embroiled in my own deadlines, I cannot participate, but I am enjoying chatter about the event.

Beadlizard has summarized the most incredibly helpful information about protecting your muscles while production knitting and I highly recommend her advice.

Sleeping with your arms in the right position will do much to help your muscles relax. It takes some work to achieve this, but it is well worth it in the long run.

Posted by countrywool at 7:19 AM EST
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Friday, 3 February 2006
Nordic Hat (Lice In The Woods)
Topic: nordic knitting



So, here is the hat the Cape Ann and Rip Van Winkle Nordic Knitting Retreats will be making as a gauge swatch for their sweaters. It will also be the topic of the March 11 KNITTING LAB at Countrywool, where we will concentrate on the two-handed color knitting technique that makes this sort of project knit faster and with less muss and fuss.

The pattern and a Pattern/Yarn pack is also available at Countrywool. The pattern comes in 6 sizes from toddler through men's extra large, and the kit includes Heilo Norwegian wool yarn in the colors of your choice.

Posted by countrywool at 8:10 AM EST
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Tuesday, 31 January 2006
Nordic Sweater Yoke Ideas
Topic: nordic knitting



I am lost in design land as I ponder color stitch patterns for the yoke of the adult Nordic Sweater. February 1 is the day I will start knitting the yoke, as the body (all 18" of it) is done.

I have made dozens of yoke sweaters, and Meg Swansen's version of the EPS percentage system is the route I will take: there will be 5 rounds of decrease from underarm to neck while color patterns dance along the way. The trick is to find charts that will work with this concept AND please the sweater design.

A wonderful, wonderful snowflake appeared in my life last week in a 1972 copy of Women's Day Sweater Ideas (how I worshiped those issues...remember when we couldn't get ANYTHING knit related at the grocery store except for that, and only ONCE a year?!?) It is, however, 30 rows high. By my calculations, the yoke of my sweater will be 9" x 7 rows/inch which means 63 rounds deep. The stellar snowflake will interfere with the decreasing rounds, so I will probably not use it.

Blast.

But, I have always had reindeer in my brain, much to the dismay of my Knit Night buddies. They are waiting to see what I pull out of my sleeve on this one and are voting for sheep, ducks or something esoteric. But, I have always wanted my own reindeer sweater. What's wrong with tradition? (And I'll end up writing the pattern with optional charts for their knitting pleasure because I adore them).

There are three knitting books that I have been spending quality time with this past week: two by Annemor Sundbo (Everyday Knitting , Setesdal Sweaters) and one by Annichen Sibbern Bohn (Norwegian Knitting Designs). The variety of reindeer in them is mind boggling, and I think I will find happiness and design bliss when I crunch stitch numbers later today.

Posted by countrywool at 7:57 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 31 January 2006 8:02 AM EST
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Wednesday, 11 January 2006
Slogging Away
Topic: stranded knitting
January is all about numbers and bookwork for me because of the business, and I get cranky. I would much rather be creating something new. So, I managed to squeeze in a new array for yarn display in the shop (my daughter and I moved about 3000 skeins of yarn yesterday). But, that's as far as it can go until I get all the forms/numbers/check statements/inventory logged and accounted for.

In this month of Nothing New On The Needles, I am pretty content, to my surprise, knitting away on the body part of the Nordic Sweater for the Cape Ann Knitting Retreat in March. I HAD wanted this to be done by Jan 1 so I could get to the writing of the pattern before the last minute, but if I try not to worry about THAT, then I am having a good time.

I have been knitting with two colors in two hands for many years, but this is the first BIG project knitting with a new way of holding the yarn in my right hand. Since I learned Continental knitting with my left hand (and had become quite speedy!) I had neglected retraining my right hand to be more efficient than the taught-to-me-by-my-mom-pick-up-wrap-put-down method.

And, now when I wrap the yarn identically around my right hand to match the left, I have included a wrap around the pinkie finger to control tension. This keeps the yarn in place on my right hand between stitches, and makes the whole process very efficient.

With the miles of body licing I am knitting right now, I am getting a LOT of practice. And I am getting noticeably faster.

It's all good.

Posted by countrywool at 7:32 AM EST
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